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The “It” List for Babies and New Moms

December 29, 2015

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Lately, as I’m reflecting on Ainsley’s first year of life, I’ve been thinking about the items I wish I would have registered for and the items that would have been welcome during those first few months of Ainsley’s life. You see, there are the items that mom’s register for and the items that later on they wish they had registered for.

I pulled together a list of the items that fit that bill for me in hopes that it would help you be a fantastic gift giver next time someone you love has a baby!

1. Zutano Booties 
The most frustrating part of dressing a baby? Finding shoes that stay on their feet! A friend of mine recommended these, saying they were easy to put on and hard for babies to get off their feet. We purchased some right away! They come in all sorts of fun colors and patterns.

2. Felt Bows 
I ended up buying a LOT of headbands, bows and girly items for Ainsley once she was born, but I wish I would have gotten some as gifts! These little felt bows from A Little Lady Shop are just the sweetest thing and they come in so many pretty colors. Added bonus? Buying from a small boutique adds an extra special touch.

3. Monogramed Bibs and Burp Cloths
This is a luxury take on a necessary item. We had friends send us a bunch of pretty monogramed bibs and burp cloths after Ainsley was born, and it feels so special when we use them, and a little fancy. I wouldn’t have spent the money on it myself, which makes it even more wonderful to receive something like this.

4. The Emily Ley Baby BookGuys, this book is just so beautiful and special and worth every penny. It would make a lovely gift for an expecting mom that they would cherish forever. I was gifted one and it’s perfect for non-crafters like myself who still want to create beautiful, personalized memories for their children.

5. A Really Special Outfit
This can be from anywhere you please, but my Aunt kindly splurged on a few really nice outfits for Ainsley and it was such a tender and generous gift. New parents are frequently buying a lot of items for baby and probably going a little cheaper on the clothing (think Carters, Old Navy, etc.) but having a few truly beautiful keepsake items that can stand the test of time and be passed down from generation to generation is a thoughtful gift!

6. Owlet Baby Monitor
I haven’t personally tried this product, but I can promise you with our next baby I will be buying one. It’s a new product that slips onto baby’s foot like a sock and monitors their oxygen levels, alerting you if they drop and something is wrong with your little one. I can tell you that having this peace of mind during Ainsley’s first few months of life would have been so wonderful. Plus, the foot/sock design seems like a great way to actually keep the monitor on without having it fall off at every diaper change.

7. Diapers (in large sizes!)
We got a lot of diapers in newborn, 1 and 2 sizes, but we ended up buying a lot of the larger sizes down the road. Think ahead and give the gift of large diapers! 🙂

8. Tiny Tags Necklace
I was gifted one of these last Christmas with Ainsley’s name on it and I wear it all the time. I loved it so much that I gave my sister-in-law one with her kiddo’s initials as well. It’s a thoughtful gift that any new mom would be thrilled to be gifted.

9. A Blue Apron Subscription
Those first few weeks, take-out and freezer meals are always SO appreciated, but eventually it’s nice to get back to cooking healthy, home-cooked meals. However, the grocery shopping and meal planning with a newborn can feel pretty overwhelming, even for someone who loves to cook. Blue Apron is a recipe and meal delivery service that brings you pre-measured ingredients and recipes straight to your door so you can cook the meal yourself without the planning, prepping or any hassle. Joe and I are trying it next week for the first time!

10. Nice Comfy Clothes for Mom
Sometimes mom gets overlooked in all the excitement surrounding baby, and chances are moms are hesitant to buy clothes for their ever-changing post-baby body. But there is nothing more confidence boosting and encouraging than having a nice pair of workout or lounge clothes, even if they only fit for a short time. My favorite brand these days is Athleta.

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Holiday Pilates

November 27, 2015

Pilates 4x4 Holiday 2

 

My friend Robin is a pilates instructor and founder of The Balanced Life. I’ve mentioned Robin before, but it bears repeating that she has one of the most balanced, authentic voices in the fitness community.

A balanced approach to fitness during the holidays? Now that’s something I can get behind. And while I love the sweet treats and celebratory foods that come with the season, my goal come January is to feel fit and healty while also feeling like I was able to enjoy the foods I love.

Robin is launching the Pilates 4×4 Program on November 30th. Here’s a bit more about what it entails and who it’s for…

The program is for:

1. Women who are short on time
2. Busy moms who need something they can easily do from home that won’t take hours + travel time + extra showers.
3. Women who travel and need something they can easily do from their hotel room or while visiting relatives.
4. Women who don’t love going to the gym or who don’t have access to a gym on a regular basis.
5. Women who are interested in building core strength, improving flexibility, and toning from head to toe.
6. Women who need a little extra encouragement and accountability because they have trouble staying consistent with their workouts on their own.

The program will include:

– 4 (40 minute) Pilates workouts (a new one goes out each week)
– Progress Journal to stay in-tune with your body & mind during the holiday season
– A daily “cup of motivation” email to feel inspired and motivated as you start each day
– Goal-setting guide
– Workout checklist to keep you on track
– A handful of other fun bonuses!

I’m going to be participating in order to stay on track and keep myself in a healthy mindset during the holidays. What a great feeling to get through December feeling great about your body, right? If you want to join me, you have just three days to sign up for the program. Sign up or find out more HERE.

Madison

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What’s In My Bag: Influence Conference Edition

September 16, 2015

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Tomorrow I’m leaving my favorite people (and my baby for the very first time overnight!) and heading to Influence Conference for the second year in a row. Conferences? Gah, conferences. I have such a love-hate relationship with them because my secretly introverted self feels so. dang. uncomfortable. But once I just do the dang thing? It’s always worth it.

I’m working on going out of my comfort zone more and more these days, and I think it’s doing me a world of good.

So what’s in my bag? Here’s a look:

1. My MacBook Air
I’ll be doing a little work while I’m there and hoping to jot down some ideas for blog content while I’m listening to all the amazing speakers.

2. My iPhone
How else am I supposed to FaceTime my baby five times a day? Plus, what’s a blogging conference without social media?

3. FLYJOY Bars
Conferences are notorious for having bad food and lousy snacks, so I’ll be taking plenty of FLYJOY bars for myself and to hand out. If you’re hungry and attending the conference, come find me and I’ll hook you up!

4. Wet Wipes
I’m getting all fancy and taking the cute, scented wipes since I won’t have a baby in tow. I’m now realizing that #momlife means getting excited about taking fancy wipes in your purse.

5. Business Cards
Purchased on VistaPrint. I’m never really sure why everyone hands out cards. Does anyone go back and look at them after the conference? I’ll never know, but I can’t imagine going without a stack.

6. Lip Glosses
Both basic (EOS) and fun (Victoria’s Secret) because that’s about as close as you’ll ever get me to wearing lipstick.

7. Notebooks
For jotting down thoughts, ideas, prayers and dreams. A couple days away, without distractions, is always good for my heart and mind. It’s such a breath a fresh air to have room to dream and plan and hope for the future.

8. My Joby GripTight Gorillapod Phone Stand
I’m convinced this will make Periscoping and selfies about a thousand times better.

Is anyone else out there going to Influence? If you are, please come find me and say hello!

Madison

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Mid-Year Reset

August 28, 2015

MidYearReview

 

In my “When Life Needs White Paint” post, I talked about a mid-year reset to start fresh. Although I’m no longer in school, I love the idea of starting new habits and intentions at the beginning of the school year. There’s something SO much more inspiring about starting new goals and routines in September than in the middle of the winter in January. Anyone with me?

Today we closed on our new house. There is more work to be done than I want to think about in order to make it a home that works for us, but we’re diving in headfirst! Although a lot of our free time will be devoted to home projects, I’m trying to be more intentional about my time by setting a few goals for the fall and beyond. Last week I jotted a few notes down about what I want to do and where I want to devote my time. Most of my list is pretty self-explanatory and straightforward, and now that I look at the list again I think it could be described like this: Live more life! Connect more, spend more time in the moment, experience new things and move my body more frequently.  I want to spend more time in my life if that makes any sense at all.

Now I want to hear from you! What do you hope to do this “school year” and beyond? Goals, hopes, dreams? Maybe we can all do a little mid-year reset together!

Madison

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Budgeting Post-Baby: Grocery Shopping and Saving

June 12, 2015

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I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one area of our spending that was a little out of control was our grocery and food budget. Grocery shopping is somewhat of a hobby for me when I have the free time and I love testing and trying out new products, so although we had a budget, I rarely stuck with it each month.

We’ve waffled between various different grocery stores over the years: Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Cub Foods, etc. My husband had been trying to convince me to check out Aldi ever since he shopped there in college, but I was always more than a little hesitant.

When we re-examined our budget, we decided that spending around $300/month on groceries was a reasonable amount to spend, cutting back from the $400/month we were budgeting previously. To some that may seem high and others that may seem low, but for us it was a pretty comfortable number. We take all our lunches from home and rarely do take-out during the week, so that’s a lot of meals for $300. Side note: Dining out and entertainment are a separate item in our budget.

When my grocery budget got cut, I knew I needed to get creative. I’m not a good coupon-clipper, especially now that time is precious with a little one around the house. So a few weeks ago I finally bit the bullet and made the trek to Aldi with my hubby and baby in tow.

First Impressions 
I was really shocked by the prices. Like, seriously in awe of how cheap some of the food was. I had a few experiences with Aldi while in college, but I was blown away by how much less everything costs. One of my prior assumptions about Aldi was that everything was really poor quality, but the way they keep their prices down (like bringing food in on pallets, not hiring people to stock the shelves, making you return your own cart and bag your own groceries) is passed along in cost-savings to the consumer. It’s not a “fun” grocery shopping experience, but it certainly does make for a cheaper bill!

After browsing the store, I was also surprised by the number of healthy, high-quality products they had available. There were plenty of items branded under their “Simply Nature” line that were organic, gluten-free, non GMO, etc. Not really what I expected from a store like Aldi. Additionally, the produce was, for the most part, really great.

Things We Love at Aldi
-Veggies/Produce
-Dark chocolate
-Cereal
-Tortilla chips and crackers (especially the black bean and corn variety)
-Plan and flavored Greek yogurt (their house brand tastes just like some major national brands)
-Milk and shredded cheese
-Grains and Bread (quinoa/rice blends, bread, sandwich thins and wraps, oats)
-Baking staples like brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, etc.
-Nuts and trail mix (their walnuts and almonds are great!)
-Sparkling water (they frequently have LaCroix, my favorite)
-Canned items like beans, crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes

Things We Buy Elsewhere
-Chocolate chips (I was not impressed with the quality of their chocolate chips at all)
-Fresh berries (their fresh berries have never looked great when we’ve been there)
-Meat (we don’t buy much meat because we get beef free from Joe’s parents, but we buy our chicken, deli turkey and the like at other stores)
-Peanut butter (I prefer brands that are made with just peanuts and salt, nothing else)
-Salad dressing (Aldi only has a limited selection of basics, like ranch and honey mustard)

Things We Buy in Bulk (Costco)
-Diapers and formula
-Toilet paper
-Olive oil
-Baby wipes
-Keurig pods
-Frozen salmon and chicken breasts

Thus far, it’s been entirely possible to shop at Aldi for a majority of our grocery needs and save a bunch of money in the process. Our weekly grocery trip runs between $60 and $75 dollars each week, and any money that we don’t spend for the month can go toward fun things (like coffee!) or saving for something else.

Other Tips for Saving
-When I do go to other stores like Target for groceries, I make sure to check out my Ibotta app to see if there are any items I can get cash back on. It’s a quick and easy way to get a little more cash in your pocket.
-I also check sites like Coupons.com for any printable coupons and Target’s online coupons as well. I don’t clip a ton of coupons, but I check a couple sites that are easy to navigate.
-Meal planning is an absolute necessity in order to eat well on a budget. I find that if I don’t plan ahead I end up spending so much more at the grocery store because I just toss things in the cart without a plan.
-Make some of your snacks! My husband snacks a lot, so to save money I have been making snacks and treats for the week on Sunday afternoons. I’ll make a batch of whole wheat banana muffins, protein bites (with oats, PB, honey and protein powder), and chop up some veggies for dipping in hummus.
-Every now and again, make it a practice to eat down your freezer. If you’re anything like us, you probably have a ton of food sitting around in your freezer just waiting to be used at mealtime. Although some of our freezer meals are less than glamorous, I feel good knowing I’m not letting food go to waste and I’m saving money in the process.

Madison